Sunday, January 29, 2012

Better Than Ever

We have been debating for a couple weeks as to when we should pick our oranges from the tree.
And today was the day!
Remember last year, our first year that the tree actually produced fruit?
Well this year, we actually needed to recruit some help and Connor was happy to oblige...

We thought this year we had 10-15 oranges on the tree...

31 in all!

I have one excited husband today!

And the chowing down has begun!
They are so juicy!
Last year they were just...ehhh.

I am also super excited to blow up one of my "Orange Pictures," frame it, and put it up in the kitchen for a pop of color.

What do you think?
Picture #1 or #2?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Happy Friday!

A little break from the Holidays...

Here's a picture of Emma Kate after a walk the other morning.

She had been up since 4:45am...not my ideal time to rise in the morning!

So by 9am as I am huffing and puffing up hill in the freezing cold, my darling sweet angel decides to take a nap!

At least she stayed asleep while I snuck her into the house. And she allowed me an hour and a half to get some things done..

Hope you're getting more sleep than I am these days ;)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cookie Baking 2011

OK it may take me all of January to get caught up...sorry:(

So every year the kids and I bake our holiday cookies together...
that is...Dominic Connor and I do it while Emma Kate is sleeping...she's just too young still.

When I think about it, it's kinda of ridiculous how many cookies we make.
But we give boxes of cookies to several of our neighbors, some family friends, I take some to work, and of course we have to save some for ourselves...which may account for some of the 5 pounds I gained in December!

Also cookie baking is a tradition that I hold near and dear to my heart.
From as young as I can remember up until the year 2000, when my grandmother passed away on Christmas day, she and I baked Christmas cookies together. I love the memories of racing her to see who was quicker, as she rolled the sugar cookie balls and I dipped them in the sprinkles. (Yes, I think I have always been a competitive person!)

This year I thought that maybe we would cut know...scale things down a little...
So I asked the boys what cookies we absolutely needed to bake in their opinions...
Dominic: "Grandma's Sugar Cookies for sure."
Connor: "Cut out cookies!!!"
Dominic: "Oh yeah...can we do the M&M ones?"

And I voted for Peanut Butter and my secret Chocoloate Chip recipe.

Yes...count them...5 different types! I really don't think we scaled back!

But I did plan ahead and made my faves ahead of time, spreading the baking out over a couple of days.

So Thursday before Christmas came and I couldn't put it off anymore.
Emma Kate went down for nap and the "Elves" went to work.

We got our sprinkles all set up...

We had happy faces...

 But not for long...

 Oh we of the joys of baking with the kids...arguing!
Dom helps me in the kitchen all the time...we are just fine.
Connor and I do baking and cooking projects together regularly...we are just fine.
Put all 3 of us together...combustion!

But it didn't last long...we got to workin' and decorating the cut out cookies...everyone was too busy to argue.

 It is so hard for me to put so much work into cut out cookies and not have them look "perfect."
But I am a work in progress and am learning to let go of control here and there and let the kids be creative with them and...have SO much fun!

Here's a pic of a few of the finished products...

And here is a peek into the kitchen I had to clean up afterward...! 

Art is never tidy right?!?!

So there you have it...another year of cookies...another year of happy kids!

Another year filled with tradition:)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Giving Back

This Christmas season at work we decided to participate in a volunteer project together.
We all have so much to be thankful for and there are so many in need, especially with the economy being the way it is.
So after many phone calls and a lot of internet research, I decided that we would give some of our time at Shelter Inc.

Shelter Inc is an organization that provides emergency assistance to the homeless of Contra Costa County. They provide emergency and short term housing. They provide all the immediate needs of the homeless as well as classes and training to help people get back on their feet and become independent again. During the Christmas season they provide "Christmas" for over 700 people, due to thousands of gifts and hundreds of hours donated.

I am ashamed to say that this was the first time I have ever volunteered anywhere besided my children's schools. And I cannot express how rewarding it was!

Upon arrival we found the hallways lined with presents, both wrapped and unwrapped.

They also had stockings put together for all ages.

Almost everything was labeled by age and gender.

They also had what seemed like a huge walk-in closet, full of miscellaneous toys, clothes, books, etc...


When we got all settled in and after we were shown around, we were given a piece of paper with the description of a family on it, mostly single-parent families. The description included names, ages, sizes, a short history as to how the family became homeless, and a wish list.

We were then to go "shopping" through the hallways and closets to find 6-7 presents for each member of the family based on their description. If the gifts were unwrapped, we wrapped them, labeled them, and bagged up the whole family's gifts for delivery.

One family member I shopped for was a 4-year-old little girl.
It was both a heart-wrenching and a heart-warming experience all at once.
I could just imagine the look of excitement on her face when she opened up the unexpected gifts.

All the while, I just kept thanking the Lord that my own children don't have to worry where their next meal will be coming from and if it will be coming at all; praying for these homeless children and teenagers that the Lord guide them in the right direction and give them a better chance at life; thanking Him for guiding me to this place to make a difference.

There were presents EVERYWHERE! It was absolutely amazing!

I left here so excited and energized that over the next few days I talked to several people about the experience. One of which owns horse stables and provides riding lessons. She gave me her business card and asked me to pass it along to the organization, donating two free riding lessons!

Then Dominic said he was interested in volunteering as well.
One of the first days of vacation, I dropped him and three of his friends off for several hours to volunteer their time as well.

If I can teach anything to my children, I hope that it is to be thankful for what they have and who they have in their lives. Life can change so quickly. Many of these homeless people recently had homes and jobs...and now have very little physical belongings.

This was such a perfect experience the holiday season, one of which I plan to repeat for years to come. And yes, as my other children get older, they too will be joining in!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sittin' With Santa

For the second year in a row now we've gone to see Santa in Walnut Creek.
I cannot tell you how much our Santa-going experience has changed since we started going here!

I have probably mentioned before that Connor is very afraid of anything large hanging high overhead. He is also not a fan of any big decorations. He even said to me this year that he would NOT be going to the mall until the Christmas stuff is all gone.

The Santa in Walnut Creek is in this nice room that is decorated to look like a living room...fireplace and all. They allow only one family in at a time and the kids have room to walk around.
It is so warm, invititing and not overwhelming...for us or the kids.

In the past I haven't dressed the kids up in their Christmas outfits but I decided to give it a try this year.
This Christmas was also a first for Jeff joining us. We usually go early during the day while Jeff is
at work. This year we waited and made and evening out of it. My parents even met us there to get in on the fun.

While waiting in line (which was about 5 min long. Score!) Emmy met a friend!
Later we had a little talk about boys in Christmas sweaters;)

Connor was so excited he couldn't stand still!
Oh wait...he's 5...he doesn't stand still anyway...

And Dominic is such a good sport! He got dressed up you remember my post on our night out? This is the outfit he picked out...

Let's back up a tad...some more info you should know about Connor...he LOVES magazines. Any toy or train magazine that is sent to our house immediately becomes property of Connor.
So at Christmas time when we are getting dozens and dozens of them in the mail...Connor is in heaven!
The Lego magazine was his fave this year and he used it to make his Christmas list. We literally went through it...I with pen and paper and Connor telling me exactly what he wanted.
Then he took the list with him to visit Santa to save Santa from listening to an unending rattling off of different Lego sets coveted by my son!
By the time we were finished with his list, we might as well have handed the whole magazine over to Mr. C!

Here Connor and Santa are reviewing the list...

While Connor was busy, Emma Kate walked around the room and found a huge rubber duckie sitting in a toy display. (Emma is obsessed with duckie's lately!) When it was time to sit on Santa's lap, she was all for long as rubber duckie came too...

I didn't bother scanning in our official photo, which was super cute as well, LOVE this pic!

I was so pleasantly surprised that Emma wasn't scared of "Ta-ta."
After asking him for all things "Do-do" (Dora-which she is also obsessed with right now)
she even gave him a couple hugs before leaving.

My mom even got in for a hug! That lady is hilarious...
she goes up to Santa and says, "Santa do I get a hug too?!"
In which Santa replies, "I thought you'd never ask! I remember last year...!"

The rest of the night we were singing, "I saw Nana kissing Santa Claus!"

We left Santa and got some frozen yogurt to wrap up the evening...
It was freezing!
And tricky trying to keep Christmas outfits on 3 kids yogurt-free!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm back!
Happy New Year!
I think I am still whirling from all of the holiday activities.
The Schwab Family had a "Staycation" the week between Christmas and New Year's and we had lots of really nice family time together.
Lots and lots of fun events.

As for New Year's Eve...very low key...just how we wanted it!
We had another couple over for dinner and a "sleepover." They live an hour away and we invited them to stay the night to avoid what can be a very dangerous late ride home on New Year's Eve.

This is the mess that was left over after our evening...

To tell you the truth...most of that was from the teenagers that were in our home;)

We started the evening with a home-made Mexican dinner.
I made pork burritos the day before, wrapped them individually, and just popped them in the oven  for a while before it was time to eat...easy peasy!

Alan and Mary love the kids and ALL of their energy.
We love hanging out with them too:)

We had good food, good drinks, and  played a fun game together before Connor went to bed and Dominic's friends came over.

Dominic spent a lot of time setting up the garage for a small New Year's party with his friends.
They all came at 8 and stayed till well after exciting for them seeing as how their get-together's usually end at 11. (Got that ladies? The going curfew these days is 11:00.)

I promise...this is most definitely Sparkling Cider that Dominic is pouring!
(At one point when I went out to the garage to check on what they were up to I found them all sitting down writing letters to themselves to put in a time capsule. So fun!)

Good food...check!
Good friends...check!
Happy "littles" in bed "on time"...check!
Happy teenager...check!

So now...what to do with this huge gap I have in this blog between Dec...22? And New Year's Eve...
I think I have no choice but to use my next several posts to revisit the Holiday Fun.
I know many of you may be well over the Holiday's but I don't want the kids to look back someday and say,
"What happened to Christmas 2011?!"

So get ready to be taken back to Santa visits, volunteer time, and lots of lots of presents!!!

Happy New Year!!